Formally named the Kingdom of Eswatini, Swaziland shipped an estimated US$1.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects an 8% uptick from 2017 to 2018 and a 3.3% increase since 2014.
Swaziland (or Eswatini) is a landlocked nation in Southern Africa surrounded by South Africa and also Mozambique on its northeastern border.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Swaziland’s exported goods plus services represent 47.9% of total Swazi economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 93.3% of products exported from Swaziland were bought by importers in: South Africa (69.4% of the global total), Kenya (5.9%), Nigeria (4.7%), Mozambique (3.3%), Tanzania (2.0%), Zimbabwe (1.5%), Angola (1.5%), Uganda (1.3%), Italy (1.1%), Namibia (1.1%), United States (0.8%) and Mauritius (0.7%).
From a continental perspective, 87.2% of Swaziland’s exports by value were delivered to African countries while 4.2% were sold to European importers. Smaller percentages went to North America (0.8%), Asia (0.3%), and Oceania led by Australia (0.2%).
Given Swaziland’s population of 1.087 million people, its total $1.9 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $1,800 for every resident in the Southern African country.
Swaziland’s unemployment rate was estimated to be 25.7% at July 2019 per Trading Economics.
Swaziland’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Swazi global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Swaziland.
- Perfumes, cosmetics: US$614.8 million (31.6% of total exports)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $340 million (17.5%)
- Other chemical goods: $192.5 million (9.9%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $152.6 million (7.8%)
- Wood: $103.3 million (5.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $57.9 million (3%)
- Machinery including computers: $50.8 million (2.6%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $47.1 million (2.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $46.2 million (2.4%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $38.2 million (2%)
Swaziland’s top 10 exported product categories accounted for 84.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 14,800% since 2017. In second place for improving export sales were mineral fuels including oil via a 170.3% improvement. Swaziland’s shipments of machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 145.6.
The leading decliner among Swaziland’s top 10 export categories was miscellaneous chemical goods thanks to its -20.6% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing are Swaziland’s most valuable exported product at 31.3% of the country’s total. In second place was sugar (14.9%) trailed by chemical industry products including residuals (9.5%), unknit and non-crocheted women’s clothing (3.3%), sawn wood (2.9%), unknit and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers (2.5%), medication mixes in dosage (2.1%), processed petroleum oils (2%), fuel wood, wood chips and sawdust (1.5%) then sugar confectionery without cocoa (1.4%).
Overall Swaziland achieved an estimated $190.4 million product trade surplus for 2018, down by -1.2% from $192.7 million in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Swazi product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Perfumes, cosmetics: US$556.6 million (Down by -4.4% since 2017)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $322.2 million (Down by -5.1%)
- Other chemical goods: $167.3 million (Down by -24.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $134.2 million (Up by 15.1%)
- Wood: $83.1 million (Up by 4.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $25 million (Down by -27.3%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $17.9 million (Up by 13.4%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $12 million (Reversing a -$4.7 million deficit)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $11.2 million (Up by 16%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $9.9 million (Reversing an -$11.2 million deficit)
Swaziland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of perfumes and cosmetics. In turn, these cashflows indicate Swaziland’s strong competitive advantages under the perfumes and cosmetics product category.
Below are exports from Swaziland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Swaziland’s goods trail Swazi importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$162.6 million (Up by 1.1% since 2017)
- Gems, precious metals: -$102.2 million (Up by 8158.4%)
- Vehicles: -$97.7 million (Down by -10.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$71.7 million (Down by -13.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$58.5 million (Down by -9.1%)
- Machinery including computers: -$57.9 million (Down by -27.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$53.4 million (Up by 10.9%)
- Cereals: -$44.8 million (Down by -18.2%)
- Paper, paper items: -$34.7 million (Up by 5.4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$33.5 million (Up by 43.3%)
Swaziland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category. Red ink flowed particularly for refined petroleum oils, electrical energy and petroleum gas.
Swazi Export Companies
Not one Swazi corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2018.
Wikipedia lists companies from Swaziland that support or are related to international trade transactions and processes. Selected examples are shown below:
- Central Bank of Eswatini (state-owned bank)
- Eswatini Airlink (state-owned airliner)
- Swazi Rail (state-owned railroad)
- Tibiyo TakaNgwane (media/sugar/real estate conglomerate)
Swaziland’s capital city is Mbabane.
See also South Africa’s Top 10 Exports, Mozambique’s Top 10 Exports and Kenya’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on Africa: Swaziland. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on July 31, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 31, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Wikimedia Commons, Flag of Swaziland. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Wikipedia, Eswatini. Accessed on July 31, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Eswatini. Accessed on July 31, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Mbabane, Swaziland. Accessed on July 31, 2019